So we have a huge amount of bacteria in us, some of them good guys and some of them bad guys. They live in the colon and healthy one actually needs both. Unfortunately modern life favours the bad guys. They feed on sugary foods and these foods include the obvious sweeties, biscuits and cakes but also the less obvious starches, such as white flour, crisps etc. The good gut flora is easily overwhelmed by these modern sugary foods.
When a course of anti-biotics is taken, they indiscriminately kill all the gut bacteria, good and bad. Repeatedly taking anti-biotics will devastate the healthy gut flora.
The chlorine in unfiltered tap water will destroy gut flora.
Low HCl levels in the stomach contribute to a preponderance of bad gut bacteria by pathogens on the food or hands not being killed as they pass through the stomach. This is exacerbated by taking anti acids.1 Adequate HCl levels stimulate good peristalsis which keeps things moving through the whole digestive tract. Low levels can trigger constipation.
If you combine this with problems at the ileo-caecal valve, then things get quite nasty. This valve sits between the small intestine and the colon. Some kinds of fibre (eg wheat bran) can irritate the valve so it either doesn’t open and close properly – or is too open so bacteria and toxins from the bowel invade further up the digestive system. Page 90 ‘Why Stomach Acid is Good for you’, J V Wright, has a section on Bowel Breath. I think the title alone says it all.
Sometimes it is recommended to take pre-biotics and these may be called FOS.2 Care has to be taken with this action since FOS will feed all the gut bacteria, so if the preponderance of gut bacteria is the bad guys, they will really be partying.
A sugary diet will also lead to the overgrowth of candida, an opportunistic yeast that lives in the gut. The symptoms of this include bloating and extreme tiredness. There are many types of candida and, if suspected, it is very important to find out which variety is infesting the guts. The standard herbs that are used to kill candida, eg caprylic acid and berberine, will not kill every type of candida – and will increase resistance to these herbs. A good stool test will determine both the type of candida, whether there are other bacteria or parasites present in the gut, and what kills them in your gut. What works in one gut may not work in another.
Excessive bloating and tiredness can also be caused by other opportunistic bacteria getting a hold, eg Klebsiella. This kind of bacteria can be picked up from a clumsy waiter’s thumb in your soup. Also poor gut flora is associated with weight gain, as the research of Caroline Karlsson , Lund Univeristy, shows.
To have healthy gut flora:
- If imbalance is suspected, have a high quality stool test to ascertain what is what – and take the necessary steps to destroy the pathogens.
- Eat a healthy diet with a good balance of proteins, fats and carbohydrates and reduce the overall sugar intake.
- Supplement with high quality probiotics.
- When a baby is born, its intestines are sterile. Breast feeding is the best source of good bacteria for the guts.
Much money is made by pedalling products like Yakult and Actimel. 3 These are feeble sources of probiotics. If you are serious about looking after your good gut flora, your money is better spent on a high class probiotic. You must be careful of the source since these things die quickly if not kept refrigerated. Because of this, they should be manufactured way above the quantity shown on the bottle so they survive the trip from the factory to the shop and finally to your fridge.
There are different kinds of probiotic – and you need to take the sort that suits your current needs. Some are resident and need to be taken regularly to maintain a good healthy population. Others pass through, taking the bad ones with them – so these are taken after being away from home or after a stomach upset. For example Lactobacillus Acidopholus and Bifidobacterium Lactis Bi-07 are resident. Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium Lactis HN019 pass through.
- Thiesen JJ, Nehra D, Citron D, et al. Suppression of gastric acid secretion in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease results in gastric bacterial overgrowth and deconjugation of bile acids. J Gastrointest Surg. 2000,4:50-54 – this is a 3 month study on patients with GERD taking prilosec compared with a control group [↩]
- Fructooligosaccharides [↩]
- Yakult is a sweet fermented skimmed milk drink. The red top one has 9.2 gm sugar and the blue 3.6 gm – to disguise the taste and feed the bacteria… It contains 6.5 billion organisms. I found this out on their website. The bottle of probiotics in front of me has 15 billion organisms per pill and no sugar [↩]